Recently, I was having coffee with a new business contact. She mentioned there might be an opportunity to do some webinars through her firm’s programs and told me I should let her know if I had any ideas. I immediately shared that I was in the process of creating a webinar to help people find flexible work – not necessarily part-time work, but work that would meet their needs. She commented, “I think that’s great. Not everyone wants to be a CEO.”
This comment left me a bit bewildered and, frankly, it is an example of exactly the kind of thinking holding small businesses back. Why can’t people be a CEO and have flexibility? Why do people still have to choose? Don’t CEOs have families, hobbies, and aspirations to do things other than work? Of course they do! Why does the mere mention of “flexible work” leave the impression that people don’t want to work hard?
It is time for a shift in the attitude and philosophy of where and when we work. Why? Well, aside from the fact it makes good business sense, it makes good hiring sense. For one, if you are willing to hire a remote worker, the pool of talent in your area just grew tenfold. Imagine the talent and skill you might find if you broaden your geographical search area!
But perhaps even more importantly, the work ethic most companies desire is inherent to those already working with flexibility. People who seek flexibility and who have had success working flexibly have already proven a few important things:
They have identified what is important to them: their values. For many, that means family comes first. They want to work, but they also want to pick up their children from school sometimes, maybe even most of the time. Is this really so wrong?
Consider asking yourself: do you really want an employee who doesn’t make family a priority? Chances are, if they don’t make family a priority, working isn’t going to be a high priority either. In some of these cases, people could probably pay someone to drive their kids around, but they choose not to.
They may not even have to work at all. Instead, they are making a choice to work. This alone tells me they are dedicated and hardworking. But even if working is not a choice, which is true for most of us, employees who honor their values of family and professionally challenging work by finding opportunities that allow them to do both display the kind of commitment I want in my employees.
They know it is not easy. It is much easier to go to work in an office from 8-5 than to juggle multiple competing priorities throughout the day. The people who do the juggling (and let’s face it, it’s usually women…) are often masters at time management because they have to be. They value time and they don’t waste it. When someone goes out of their way to tell me how late they were in the office, my first thought is: I bet this person has terrible time management skills.
They work all the time (maybe to a fault). People who have flexibility understand that work is not necessarily 8-5. They are used to working at various times, in various locations, and with various resources. They are used to getting the job done, even if that means working at odd hours. This is ironic when you consider that so many people in the corporate world fear flexibility and are stuck on the belief of “face time” and being in the office during “normal business hours.” People who have flexibility, work remotely, or have alternative schedules already understand that work often needs to happen outside and beyond those “normal business hours.”
There are a lot of companies offering their workforce the benefit of flexibility. But far too many are not. Those businesses have convinced themselves it wouldn’t work for their employees or for their industry. I challenge these companies to look beyond their fears of what might happen and give it a try. I also encourage them to get creative. Here’s a novel idea: ask your employees what they think would work for them. Flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all mentality. Find an approach that would work for you and your employees. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.